The prophet Jonah lived shortly before the ten tribes of Israel were taken captive into Babylonia. Only a small part of Jonah’s story is told in the Old Testament, but the part that is recorded teaches us that the Lord offers salvation to everyone who repents.
The Lord commanded Jonah to tell the wicked people of Nineveh, a city east of Israel, that if they didn’t repent, they would be destroyed. Jonah didn’t want to go to that wicked place. He didn’t think the people would listen to him or want to change, so he got on a boat sailing west, away from Israel and Nineveh.
A terrifying storm arose and tossed the boat to and fro. The sailors cried out to the prophet, who was sleeping, to pray to his God to save them. Because Jonah knew that his disobedience was the cause of the storm, he told them, “Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you” (Jonah 1:12).
Though they didn’t want to, the sailors finally did as Jonah asked and threw him into the sea. “Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights” (Jonah 1:17).
While in the fish, Jonah cried unto the Lord. He knew he had disobeyed, and he asked the Lord for forgiveness. The Lord heard his prayers and caused that the fish “vomited out Jonah upon the dry land” (Jonah 2:10). Again the Lord told the prophet to go preach to the people of Nineveh.
Jonah obeyed, and to his surprise, when he told the people of Nineveh that the Lord was displeased with them and that they would soon be destroyed if they didn’t repent, they believed him and turned from their evil ways. They accepted the gift of repentance that would come through the Savior. Both the prophet and the people he preached to had need of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ so they could return to Heavenly Father. Because this gift is given to everyone, we, too, can repent when we make mistakes.
Mount the flannel-board figures on heavier paper, color them, cut them out, and use them to tell the story of Jonah and the people of Nineveh.
Illustrated by Beth Whittaker